Michael Scott, marriage and family therapist, and mediator, points out that, “Most effective co-parenting arrangements contain the following characteristic dynamics between the parents:
In the face of stress, loss, change, and the crisis of separation/divorce, parents often lose their ability to listen to each other and work together.
Losing the ability to work together in a civil and respectful manner is often a distressing part of ending a relationship and setting up a two-home family. Hopefully, both adults realize the urgency to work through difficult emotions and recover skills to work together and make healthy decisions for the sake of their children. Let’s take a look at each of the four C’s as guidance:
Cooperation: Angry partners have to work their way through bellies full of emotion and upset to find their way back to constructive co-parents. Cooperation is a necessary skill in a two-home families as children’s lives often require parents to work together to manage schedule changes, transitions, carpools, activities, school work … just to mention a few. As co-parents you’re called to manage orthodontia appointments, and take care of sick kiddo during flu season, cooperation must be top-of-mind. Remember: cooperation is a willingness to work together to help your children’s lives feel safe and integrated while experiencing all the love you each have for them.
Communication: Strong co-parenting communication skills starts with listening patiently to your co-parent — ensuring that you understand the problem to be solved or the child’s need to be addressed without getting lost in emotion. Ignore the barbs and focus on what’s needed for your kiddo! Using a business-like approach, that includes clarity, neutrality, and respect will go a long way to helping smooth out communication bumpiness. Bring your best self to co-parent communication and soon your relationship will strengthen and your kids will benefit.
Compromise: Adjusting to a new normal is never easy. In your one home family, you may have had more control over the course of your children’s lives — or you may be experiencing a new found control over how you parent your children “solo” without your former partner. Either way, the new normal requires that you both compromise. Learn ways to be generous with each other; respect each other’s boundaries; give each other the benefit of the doubt; and allow exceptions to occur when they provide for something special, interesting, enhancing for your child.
Consistency: This does not mean that you need to parent “the same” in each household, but it does mean that the differences aren’t so big that children have difficulty adjusting or maintaining their rhythms and patterns comfortably. Argue less about what’s right or wrong and talk openly about what your particular child needs to be successful and thrive. Find ways to provide your children the consistency they need in terms of meals, bedtimes, homework habits, hygiene, and exercise. That’s something you do, not for your “ex,” but for your kids!
Caring for our children, is the obvious “C” we’re all after. When we focus on the skills needed to care for our children with our co-parent across two homes, children grow up strong and resilient with a loving sense of family.